U.S. Army Sends Two Tank Brigades to Europe Amid Russia Tensions

U.S. Bradley vehicles
U.S. Bradley fighting vehicles that will be deployed in Latvia for NATO's Operation Atlantic Resolve wait for an unload in Garkalne, Latvia February 8, 2017. Ints Kalnins/Reuters

The U.S. Army docked tanks and other fighting vehicles in northern Poland Wednesday, swelling its presence to two armored brigades in Europe. The reinforcement is a response to regional fears that Moscow may attempt another landgrab in its former sphere of influence, following the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

NATO has already deployed four multinational battalions across Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to assure Russia's western neighbors their allies will defend them if needed. In a separate move to the allied troops' tour, the U.S. military has now sent the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, to Gdansk on a year-round basis, according to the Pentagon's Stars and Stripes newspaper. The arrival, although pre-planned, takes place days before Russia's large military drill in nearby Belarus. Poland and many of its neighbors have expressed suspicions that the exercise is a practice for a future invasion.

The nine-month-long rotational tour will coincide with a U.S. armored brigade, already on duty in Europe—the Colorado-based 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson.

"This will be the first time two armored brigades transition within the European theater sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve," said Master Sergeant Brent Williams, a spokesman for the command element overseeing operations in eastern Europe. The operation is part of a series of exercises across the eastern flank of Europe, touring from Bulgaria to Estonia and training alongside local forces.

In the coming weeks the 3rd brigade will help ease their newly arrived peers, teaching them lessons they have learned themselves during their deployment. The 2nd brigade has spent the past year training for the tour, the units commander, Colonel David Gardner said.

"By deploying to Europe and distributing our forces across region, we provide a tangible and visible presence of the deterrent capabilities available to respond to crises at decisive points," Gardner said.

The outgoing 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, considers its experience in Europe, which includes participating in live fire drills, intense enough to now qualify it as one of the the most combat-ready units on duty according to its commander Colonel Michael J. Simmering.

"The Soldiers of 3rd Brigade have spent their time in theater training at every opportunity," Simmering said. "After numerous live fire exercises and multiple other training events, our team is arguably the most lethal armored brigade in the Army."